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There are concerns that axing EU legislation could further affect logistics and trade across Britain’s borders

Dropping current EU laws by the end of the year as part of the Brexit deal will leave UK supply chains at risk, the logistics sector has warned the government.

Trade body Logistics UK asked Rishi Sunak for a “clear timeline” for the proposed Retained EU Law Bill, which it said could “significantly” affect trade and ramp up costs for businesses.

The REUL bill will give the UK power to ditch thousands of laws that it has kept from its time in the EU. The bill is currently passing through parliament and expected to roll out by the proposed ‘sunset period’ in December this year.

But the “very tight deadline” presented challenges for logistics businesses, which were already having to deal with major post-Brexit changes, said Logistics UK’s head of trade & devolved policy Nichola Mallon.

“We are supportive of positive regulatory reform but we want government to do it in the right way and that will take more time,” Mallon told The Grocer.

EU legislation

Government officials have so far identified more than 4,000 pieces of relevant EU legislation, the majority of which fall under Defra’s umbrella, that need to be tackled by the end of the year.

However, it is still unclear how many other laws could be in scope, leaving many food sectors dealing with the uncertainty of what that will mean for UK trade amid the roll out of other major deals like Northern Ireland’s Windsor Framework.

Logistics UK warned the prime minister of the “risks and costs” that removing the protections of EU legislation without a clear replacement framework could have on businesses moving goods across the UK’s borders.

“Our members operate on very narrow margins and have already absorbed significant costs as a result of the UK’s departure from the EU,” CEO David Wells wrote in a letter to the PM.

“Coupled with the ongoing uncertainty over what legislation will be retained, removed or improved, and how those changes will need to be implemented and when, it is clear that logistics businesses are increasingly concerned about the scale of the task ahead.”

Read more: Food safety must be carefully considered in Brexit Freedoms Bill

Wells reiterated that adapting to any new rules “will take time and money” and that the government should not “rush through changes” that could negatively impact UK firms and consumers.

The bill’s so-called ‘sunset clause’ has previously raised concerns among public servants tasked with identifying EU laws that need to be either converted into UK law or dropped off the statute book over the sheer scale of the assignment.

Many in food and agriculture have asked for an extension of the sunset period, claiming the end-of-year deadline was unattainable and could lead to a loss of key protections across areas like food safety and movement of goods.

The Financial Times recently reported that business & trade minister Kemi Badenoch may be considering narrowing the scope of EU retained laws that will be axed, whilst also scrapping the controversial sunset clause.

Pragmatic approach

The reports have been positively received by the head of trade at the British Chambers of Commerce, William Bain, who said in a statement that a “more pragmatic approach would be greatly welcomed”.

“Firms have been battered by the pandemic, energy costs, inflation and rising interest rates, but their confidence in the economic outlook has been starting to grow,” Bain said.

“Now is not the time to knock that with a hasty sunset clause across vast areas of UK regulation.”

A DB&T spokesman told The Grocer last month the government was “fully committed to the Retained EU Law Bill, a key part of delivering our commitment of removing and reforming burdensome retained EU law”.

The bill is set to go through its Report Stage in the Lords on Monday, 15 May.